Eni opens biorefinery in Gela

Italian oil and gas multinational Eni Spa has launched its 750,000 tonnes Gela biorefinery, which will be able to utilise increasing quantities of used vegetable oil, animal fat, algae and by-products to produce renewable diesel or hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO).

The plant was launched in August, the company’s second conversion of a traditional pretrochemical plant into a biorefinery, Eni said on 25 September.

Eni’s Venice biorefinery began operations in 2014 and the two plants would bring the company’s combined renewable diesel production to some 1M tonnes, Giacomo Rispoli, executive vice president, portfolio management and licensing at ENI, said earlier in the year.

The company said in addition to the €294M (US$320M) it had spent on reconverting the refineries at Gela, it planned to invest €73M (US$80M) in further preliminary activities and pre-treating biomass, which would be finished in third quarter 2020 and supply the biorefinery with second-generation raw material from waste, raw vegetable oil and advanced material.

“To create the Gela biorefinery plant, the two existing desulphurising units were modified and a steam reforming unit was built to product hydrogen,” Eni said. “Hydrogen is a basic unit in HVO.”

Eni’s proprietary renewable diesel technology, licensed from Honeywell UOP, uses hydrogen to deoxygenate a feedstock, with a second stage isomerisation step, to produce renewable diesel, as well as naptha, jet fuel and LPG.

Eni said as well as the Gela biorefinery, the site was also home to a pilot waste-to-fuel plant which had been transforming organic waste into bio-oil, biomethane and water since last December.

Earlier in June, the ACI Oleofuels conference heard that the 80% of the Gela plant’s feedstock comprised palm oil and 20% waste feedstocks such as used cooking oil (UCO).

ENI said the company was working towards using less palm oil in light of the recast of the European Energy Directive (RED II) and its delegated act defining palm oil as a feedstock with a high risk of indirect land use change (ILUC).